Mizzou hoops slate features these five intriguing story lines

ST. LOUIS — The Southeastern Conference announced its 2013

basketball schedule Tuesday, perhaps in an attempt to squeeze a dose of

hoops into the news before the football-crazed league kicks off. For

some SEC schools, basketball matters.

Mizzou is one such

institution. So before football is upon us, let’s take a look at the

most intriguing games on Mizzou’s hoops schedule now that the 2013-14

slate has taken shape.

1) UCLA at Mizzou, Dec. 7, Columbia

The

Bruins make the trip Columbia after crushing the Tigers’ hearts in a

97-94 overtime loss in California last year. Missouri will have

refreshed most of its roster since, but the Bruins will return three

starters from an NCAA Tournament team. They will also be playing under

former New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who left the Lobos with about as

much class as Mike Anderson left Mizzou. (Alford agreed to a multi-year

extension in New Mexico before bolting less than a week later.)

2) Illinois vs. Mizzou, Dec. 21, St. Louis

With

Kansas out of the rivalry equation for what seems like forever, the

Braggin’ Rights game is the most storied hoops rivalry this team has.

And Mizzou has had the upper hand for a while. The series has been

played annually since 1983, and the Tigers have now matched their

longest win streak since four consecutive W’s from 1991-94. All signs

point to Illini coach John Groce being the real deal. Can he snap the

streak in Year 2?

3) Kentucky at Mizzou, Feb. 1, Columbia

Get

your popcorn ready. That down year Kentucky had last season — A John

Calipari team lost in the first round of the NIT! — will likely be the

motivating factor for a Wildcats team loaded with more young talent than

any other school in the country. Buy tickets to this one and you are

sure to see some future NBA players, such as sophomore center Willie

Cauley-Stein and sophomore forward Alex Poythress. Oh, and Calipari

landed six of the nation’s top 11 players in the class of 2013. The

one-and-done Wildcats should be worth the price of admission.

4) Mizzou at Ole Miss, Feb. 8, Oxford, Miss.

Marshall,

will you be joining us? Of course Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson

hasn’t gone away. Despite being suspended indefinitely for his

off-the-court issues, Henderson is in the process of working his way

back into the favor of the team and school. And personally, I hope the

kid gets on track and plays. The MVP of the SEC Tournament is the only

kind of player who can cast a special spell over Tiger fans — he ticks

them off as much as a Jayhawk would.

5) Arkansas at Mizzou, Feb. 13, Columbia

Welcome

back, Mike! You know how I said Illinois-Mizzou is the best rivalry now

that the Border War is dead? It is. But Mizzou-Arkansas has some

serious potential. Not only do these schools go head-to-head for

recruits in most every sport, the man in the nice suit on the sideline

for the Razorbacks used to be Mizzou’s own. Remember, Tigers coach Frank

Haith nearly went after Anderson last year in Columbia when Anderson

said something Haith didn’t approve of. There’s no reason sparks

shouldn’t continue to fly every time CMA arrives in CoMo.

Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com.